Those were two of the key words that owner Michael Landrum used as he tried to sum up the first few days of service at Ray’s the Steaks at East River, which officially opened on Tuesday for lunch and dinner.

“This is my most difficult and challenging restaurant opening and my least smooth restaurant opening,” Landrum told Y&H this afternoon.

It was difficult and challenging, the owner said, because there was “so much new ground being broken with an entire community and an entirely new clientele being served.” And those challenges were compounded by the fact that some of the new or revamped dishes at the East River location were “outside my comfort zone and expertise,” Landrum added.

I should note that all these comments are made by a man who admits to a certain streak of hyper-perfectionism. I’d call it Landrum’s desire to create the perfect restaurant for Ward 7 right out of the gate. And as everyone knows, that never happens for any restaurant, let alone one with such high expectations.

Despite Landrum’s challenges, he was bullish on his first two and a half days of business. “I couldn’t be happier with the community turnout, and I couldn’t be happier with the community feedback,” he said.

“One of the greatest things that you can ever experience is to have your first repeat customer on your second day of business,” Landrum said about his Ray’s repeater on Wednesday.

The numbers have pleased Landrum, too. More than 50 people dined at Ray’s on opening day, and that number doubled the very next day to more than 100. Landrum said he already had 65 customers today and fully expected to surpass 125 diners. “That, to me, is incredibly gratifying,” he said.

Of those diners, Landrum added, “fewer than a half dozen [were] Don Rockwell people,” by which he means that the vast majority of the guests were from the Ward 7 community.

Landrum said that his East River property employs about 20 people from the community. Half of them are currently at the restaurant and the other 10 are undergoing training at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington. He expects the other employees to join the Ray’s the Steaks at East River team in a week or two.

Ray’s The Steaks at East River
3905 Dix St. NE
One block south of the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE
(202) 396-7297

Photo courtesy of Michael Landrum